by Chris Sherwood
As probably many other have, I’ve often wondered why in an age where information is so readily available and worldwide communication is so readily accessible, our society seems to be more and more divided each day.
There’s multiple reasons of course. Technology has made our nation, formerly with its own distinct regions with their own cultures, more homogenized for one. We have states with more people than some European countries, and look how different they are. But I digress.
A while back I was talking with a friend at a fraternal organization we both belong to. We were discussing the pomp and circumstance that occurs at certain times, and how we view it. I’ll preface this by saying I enjoy the organization and all it has to offer. However looking in the handbooks at how some seemingly mundane things are supposed to take place at first glance seems, well, almost cult-like. Being someone who isn’t big on ceremony, it seems kinda weird.
However I know it wasn’t always that way. Forty or fifty years ago, those “seemingly mundane” things I mentioned were a big deal to members. Members who really took those ceremonies and all the trappings very seriously. We’re a more cynical society these days, with more things to occupy our minds and entertain us. Decades ago your entertainment came from outside the home; certainly not from a computer you carried in your pocket. Organizations and the traditions that came with them were a lifeline between the individual and the community, and they were held in higher regard.
The conversation turned to other things, but then suddenly a thought occurred to me. Is it possible that, as we abandon those ceremonies and traditions, we are also abandoning a part of what it means to be us?
Think of it this way: Each family has their own traditions for special occasions, Christmas for example. As we grow up we partake in special ways of observing the holiday based on how our parents, grandparents, and so on did. When we become adults and go out into the world on our own, we more often than not continue those traditions without even thinking about it. We just do them because, well, we always did. To no longer observe those traditions over time is to separate ourselves from our family, whether it be intentional or not. In time, we lose a piece of who we are.
I’d say it’s the same for the sense of community. As technology, ( computers, social media, cheap transportation ) has made the world community smaller, it’s all but erased the individual’s need for the “micro-community”, the church, volunteer fire department, or any one of countless fraternal organizations. What’s left is not much more than illusion, an easily manipulated “social experience” lacking in any real sense of meaningful gratification or worth. No wonder we’re so depressed and isolated.
So it occurs to me that we as individuals need to examine our hesitation at traditions and ceremony that might seem kinda lame. As much as we wouldn’t dream of shunning family traditions, we should remember that beneath the surface of those hokey ceremonies lies decades of tradition with actual meaning.